The electric delivery van segment will get another new entry in about 18 months.
Spartan — which got its start in Michigan in the mid-'70s building fire trucks, then blossomed into a large manufacturer of truck bodies, RV chassis, delivery vehicles and other work trucks — changed its name to Shyft Group in 2020, the year it sold its fire truck business.
In 2020, the company booked $676 million in sales. It has plants and other operations in 10 states and Mexico. The new van, which will be unveiled next month at an industry trade show in Indianapolis, will be the company's first turnkey vehicle since its fire truck days.
CEO Daryl Adams told Automotive News that the company is using its own in-house designed electric chassis that will be driven by an electric axle purchased from a supplier. Shyft engineers are designing the power electronics and are working with a supplier to develop the software. Batteries, Adams said, will be purchased from a supplier. The estimated range between charges for the walk-in delivery van is 150 to 175 miles. Testing is scheduled to begin this year.
"We were looking around [the industry] for around two years to find an [EV] chassis. We were hoping we could find someone who had a chassis we could use," he said. "What we found was that many of these startups had great PowerPoint presentations. We went through them — we discovered they needed a lot of money to build them. We said we have almost 50 years of chassis- and body-building experience. Companies are coming out with e-axles and batteries. All we were missing was the operating system for the vehicle."
Shyft's chassis has been designed to be manufactured in several sizes, so the company can offer Class 3 fleet customers different-sized vehicles. The company is designing the body in-house.
Adams said the Shyft will build the van in a dedicated EV plant. He would not say how much the new electric van will cost. But, he said, it will initially be more expensive than a traditional gasoline or diesel van. However, fleet operators could see their overall costs ultimately be lower because of government EV incentives and lower maintenance costs.